South Korea, US kick off joint military drills with F-35 fighter jets
Seoul, Jul 14 (EFE).- The South Korean and United States’ militaries on Thursday launched joint military exercises with their fifth generation F-35 fighter jets in an apparent show of power, at a time when the North Korean regime seems to be all set for carrying out a fresh nuclear test.
The exercises, set to last four days, will involve 30 combat aircrafts of the F-35, F-15, F-16 and F-50 models, the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement Thursday.
This is the first time since December 2017 – when the two countries carried out the Vigilant Ace joint drills amid escalating tensions with Pyongyang – that the US has sent F-35 jets to the Korean peninsula and the first time that the two sides are carrying out joint training since South Korea deployed its own fleet of F-35s.
The deployment comes after US President Joe Biden promised his Korean counterpart Yoon Suk-yeol during a summit in May that Washington would deploy strategic military assets in South Korea “in a timely and coordinated manner as necessary,” in the backdrop of North Korean aggression.
The F-35, a fifth-generation stealth multirole combat aircraft developed mainly by US firms Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman and Britain’s BAE Systems, has been seen by North Korea as one of the biggest threats to its security.
For weeks, the US and South Korea have been on alert over Pyongyang preparing to carry out its first nuclear test since 2017, with all arrangements in place for a launch order by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, as per reports.
North Korea, completely cut off from the outside world by the pandemic since 2020, has ignored calls from South Korea or the US to resume stalled talks on denuclearization.
Last year it approved a weapons modernization plan that is behind the record number missile tests it has carried out this year (over 20), and the preparations, captured in satellite images since February, for a new atomic test.
On Wednesday, the commander of the US Forces in Korea, Paul LaCamera, reiterated at a Seoul event that Pyongynag’s next nuclear test was a question of when and not if. EFE